Earth Observation Data: an essential asset to be preserved

(June 10th 2008)This trend is likely to increase in the future due to the growing interest in global change monitoring (which is driving users to request time-series of data spanning 20 years and more) and to the need to support the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The content of the EO archives, which used to be a few years of data, is extending to decades and their value as a scientific time-series is consequently increasing. There is a strong need to preserve the EO data and to keep it accessible and usable.

The large number of Earth Observation missions scheduled in the next few years will further increase the volume of data. This fact, together with the increased demand from the user community, marks a challenge for Earth Observation satellite operators, Space Agencies and EO data providers regarding coherent data preservation, optimum availability and accessibility of the different data products. This challenge requires a coordinated approach at European level in order to guarantee the preservation and accessibility of European Earth Observation data. Cooperation and sharing are key aspects in this area and must be strongly pursued for the benefit of the user community.

On 27-28 May 2008 a workshop on Earth Observation Long Term Data Preservation (LTDP) was held at ESA/ESRIN. All European (and Canadian) EO data owners, providers and archive holders discussed and developed a joint strategy to move ahead technically and programmatically concerning the Long Term Data Preservation of EO Data.

This workshop constituted a fundamental milestone for the long term preservation of Earth Observation data and led to a set of recommendations concerning the harmonisation and cooperation at European level in the EO Long Term Data Preservation field. All EO data owners participated actively during these two days and presented their current/planned approach for the preservation of their data archives and their position versus a Common Long Term Data Preservation Policy prepared and presented by a dedicated working group formed within the Ground Segment Coordination Body (GSCB).

The importance and the benefits of a coordinated approach and of an open collaboration, having the overall European EO data set preservation for any future analysis as a common goal, were unanimously recognised. The fact that “preserving today’s science records (data, publications), as well as their context, will preserve the future of science” was highlighted.

Furthermore it was acknowledged that, in the long term, no organisation can undertake all tasks connected to digital preservation on its own: there is a strong need to share costs and efforts and to identify commonalities. All public and private EO data owners and archive holders who were present at the workshop supported the current initiative and recommended that ESA propose and coordinate its following steps.

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Source: ESA / GSCB

Author: EARSC

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